Kirkus Reviews QR Code
FOREIGN MATTER by Robert MacLean


by Robert MacLean

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
ISBN: 978-0689119408
Publisher: Atheneum

The high jinks of a lovable ne'er-do-well expatriate—in an old-fashioned but often very funny first novel in the style of P.G. Wodehouse or Kingsley Amis.

Toby Tucker is an amiable, quite lazy, not-quite-grown-up young man in his late 30's who has left New York with numerous collection agents on his tail: "Most of them couldn't make it as thugs, and they're bitter about it." After scraping along as a language teacher and tour guide in Italy, he has the good fortune to meet a lovely American widow named Marcie Harding, who is willing to keep Toby in the style he prefers—for services rendered, of course. Unfortunately, along with Marcie comes her little brat of a daughter, Andrea; and her pompous father-in-law, Haze Harding, who controls the purse strings. As the novel opens, the foursome are in Athens, and Haze is threatening to cut off Marica's money—he insists on buying a perfectly dreadful painting by an equally dreadful artist named Johna Nerg, for $100,000. Thus begins an energetic comedy of errors. The lackadaisical Toby, seeing his meal ticket disappearing, destroy's the Nerg painting on several occasions, only to see it resurrect itself, repaired and even more expensive. It is finally bought from under Haze's nose by a rich Greek woman who lives on a small island; Haze, Toby, Marcia, and Andrea descend on the place, the painting is destroyed a few more times, and Toby plans a grand caper to satisfactorily end the entire affair—all the while fighting off the advances of a teen-age American girl, and a sultry Frenchwoman. Toby is really a gigolo of yesteryear's comedy, fighting his way through blinding hangovers to somehow blunder through victoriously—but he's enormously enjoyable while he's at it.

A promising debut.